About Jim Bamboulis
Jim Bamboulis has held several posts over the past 12 years, including National Sportscaster, Food Host and Writer, Talk Show Host, Olympic Researcher and Travel Film-maker.
Born and raised in Toronto, Jim learned early on that the combination of travel and food meant ultimate living. Combining his insatiable creative spirit and desire to document his travels, Jim took his unshakable travel bug and set off to explore. Add the fact that Jim also grew up in a Greek household and he learned that not only does Mom always make the best meals, but as importantly learned the importance of understanding and appreciating the countless beautiful cultures and the integral role food plays in every corner of the World.
In August 2009, Jim founded Travel Mammal, a site that brings together his travels and experiences (both good and terrifying) with the hope that others are inspired to share their own. We are all storytellers, especially when it comes to travel and food. He urges everyone to be inspired, explore and love the world and the people that share it with us. Or in other words, Live to Travel and travel to live!
Latest Posts by Jim Bamboulis
I wanted to drive north. I wanted to go to a place I had never been to before. I looked at a map and saw Lagoon City. A coastal town with winding canals? What am I looking at here, Venice? Could this be The Venice of Ontario? Only 1 1/2 hours from Toronto?
I started driving. When I arrived, I was amazed. Lagoon City is one of many towns that make up the township of Ramara. An official Canadian Resort village, it has a small town feel, mixed with a bit of Floridian vibe. Friendly people, beautiful homes and surrounded by water and boats.
Homes here are connected to 10 miles of lagoons which are in turn connected to Lake Simcoe and the Trent River waterway. It makes for an incredible sight and worthy of a walk around the town.
Don’t know anyone living in those homes…but still want to enjoy the water? You’re good, Lagoon City has you covered. There’s a great beach and even a hotel right along the water so you can stay, eat, play and swim all you like.
Of course, there are plenty of spots along all sides of Lake Simcoe to enjoy the outdoors. The water is exceptional in many spots and often very shallow. Lagoon City is one of those places that centres around those who boat and enjoy the ‘dockominium’ type of lifestyle.
For visitors, it’s an amazing side trip, a chance to see a place in Ontario that you may not have experienced before. It’s really very picturesque and worth the trip. This part of Ontario is truly a wonderland when it comes to things to see and do. There are several golf courses, Provincial Parks such as Sibbald Point and Mara, Casino Rama is in the areaand if you love ice cream, you can’t beat Kawartha Dairy, home to some of the best ice cream in Canada.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea that there was a National park so close to Toronto. Provincial parks, yes. Several. So when I looked at a map and noticed Georgian Bay Islands, I jumped on the opportunity to experience it myself. In this article, I’ll give you 5 solid reasons why you should experience it for yourselves. Here we go.
Close to Toronto
Yes, I know. Proximity matters. I understand that there’s only so much time in the day and the week. You don’t want to spend that much time in the car, trying to get to where you need to get. Georgian Bay Islands National Park (GBINP) is located about 2 1/2 hours north of Toronto. That may still seem far but when you think about the fact that you’re going to a National park, it should (hopefully) get you excited.
For me, the drive up and what’s around also plays a part. Highway 400 is a bit of a boring highway, I know. But once you get north of Barrie, the scenic drive element of the road trip itself makes it all worthwhile. The landscape becomes that much more rugged, the air that much cleaner.
It’s a National Park
The fact that there’s such a park so close to the big city is truly special. When I think about these types of outdoor gems, my mind usually goes to Jasper, Banff and even Gros Morne. These are some of the more majestic parks Canada has to offer. And although beautiful and definitely worth experiencing, don’t discount the beauty in Toronto’s backyard. You won’t see peaks, glaciers and ocean, but you will see a part of Canada and Canadian Shield that many of us take for granted.
After all, GBINP is right in the middle of the 30,000 island country. It’s home to the world’s largest freshwater archipelago. A small boat takes you either to the north end or south end of Beausoleil Island where you can then take your pick as to what you want to do. Cycle, hike, camp, swim and/or just enjoy the many vistas available. The Group of Seven saw plenty of beauty here and I guarantee that you will too.
Incredible hiking and cycling trails
There are around a dozen trails to explore on both the north and south side of the Beausoleil. I stuck to the northern end and managed to squeeze in 2 trails. Cambrian is a 2km trek that takes you along Little Dog Channel and through deep forest.
The other one was Fairy, a 2.5km loop trail that takes you to Honeymoon Bay and along Fairy Lake. Longer, more challenging hiking and cycling trails are located on the south end. If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one at the Cedar Spring Visitor Centre on the Island.
Affordable cabin life
GBINP is one of those places that comes equipped with fully functioning, all-the-comforts-of-home waterfront cabins. You can rent a cabin at either Cedar Springs orChristian Beach. At Cedar Springs, accommodations for up to 5 people is available. Cabins come with a queen sized bed and a bunk bed. You get washrooms, showers, dining table, sofa, coffee table, a fridge and yes electricity.
Photo courtesy: Parks Canada
Meanwhile the cabins at Christian Beach are a bit more remote, smaller too. They are more for the couple who wants some privacy and distance from everyone and everything. Here, you get a queen size bed, composting toilets close by, limited solar-powered electricity and a dining table with chairs. There’s no running water in the cabins but you get a shared fire pit, a beautiful pebble beach, views of Georgian Bay and you get to experience epic sunsets. Similar to Cedar Springs, pets aren’t allowed.
Photo courtesy: Parks Canada
Chance to see wildlife
If you’re a true lover of the great outdoors, then you love the chance to see some real wildlife. For lightweights like me, seeing a chipmunk is enough to get me rattled and dazzled. There are plenty at GBINP. But if you’re looking for a real up close and personal encounter with, say rattlesnakes then you’re in luck. They’re around at GBINP and from what I understand, they are a rare sight. But nonetheless, look for the sounds and respect their boundaries. Stay safe out there.
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake on Northern Beausoleil Island.
Photo courtesy: Parks Canada/ Bill Carswell, 1977
There’s also been Black bear sightings on both ends of the park. They tend to avoid humans and generally go for food lying around the picnic areas. Make sure that you store your food and cooking supplies so that you don’t risk coming into contact with these beautiful animals. Respect the park, respect the wildlife and everything should be just fine.
Alana Taylor loves art. She’s especially passionate about Canadian Artists who create incredible pieces. In this article, she shares her 5 art road trip adventures around Southern Ontario that you should take this fall!
How many people know where to go and eat like a local in Ottawa? When most people think of Ottawa, thoughts of beautiful parks, incredible museums, amazing restaurants and of course the historic Parliament buildings come to mind. Here, we highlight some different places that only locals know about and often go to. Places that I personally love to visit when I am back home. Places that you won’t find in most travel guides.
Let’s start with food. I think Ottawa has some of the best poutine restaurants in the country. And that’s thanks to its close proximity to St. Albert and their amazing cheese curds. Honestly, if you’ve never had poutine made with fresh cheese curds from St. Albert you’ve been missing out. Trust me.
I don’t eat poutine often, but when I do my favourite place in the city to indulge in this yummy treat is Fritomania (map). Don’t be fooled by the humble appearance (it is a little chip wagon located in Ottawa’s east end). It is hands down the best poutine I have ever tried. The mix of homemade fries, the most delicious gravy and St. Albert’s cheese curds is absolutely delicious. It’s definitely worth the trip to the wagon.
Canadian Museum of Nature
Ottawa has so many incredible museums that you could spend a week exploring them all. My go-to is the Canadian Museum of Nature. As children we always referred to it as the “dinosaur museum” because one of their permanent exhibits is all about dinosaurs. I loved it as a child and I still love it as an adult.
A National Historic Site of Canada, the building itself is a 100-year-old awe-inspiring castle (map). On the inside, it’s a perfect mix of historic and modern design. I owned an event planning company for many years and this was one of my favourite places to hold events because it is such a stunning and unique setting. In the last few years they’ve started hosting monthly events between September and May called Nature Nocturne, which has become one of the best dance parties in the city.
Imagine having a drink, eating and dancing in the middle of one of the coolest museums. Definitely an awesome night out in Ottawa!
Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana
I absolutely love bakeries. My favourite in Ottawa is Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana. Locals know it as “Joe’s Place”.
Joe is the Owner and Chef of the bakery. He’s an amazing and extremely talented guy. When I was doing weddings and events full-time, I always recommended him to my clients. His cakes are incredibly creative and delicious!
Located in the heart of Little Italy (map), I always drop by when I am in the city to pick up some pastries for my family and have a cappuccino. If you love bakeries as much as I do, you definitely want to make a stop here while you are in the city.
Ottawa has many beautiful parks. One of my favourites is located just minutes from the heart of downtown (map). Strathcona Park is smaller than a lot of the parks in the city (only 15 acres) but it is one of the most serene and beautiful places. I use to love going and spending an hour or two just sitting by the beautiful Rideau River which stretches the length of the park or read a book under one of the many willow trees.
This park features a gorgeous fountain at the top of a hill that was donated by Lord Strathcona in 1909. Great for families, there’s also a play structure that is made to look like ancient ruins, a sandbox and benches throughout. In the summer, Strathcona is home to Theatre Under the Stars by Odyssey Theatre, which is always a magical experience. In the fall, it turns into a colourful oasis.
Want to indulge with an amazing spa experience? You got it.
Located about 10 minutes from downtown you find Nordik Spa-Nature, the largest spa in North America. One of my favourite places, I consider it a personal piece of heaven on earth (map). I can spend an entire day relaxing and unwinding in their outdoor baths and incredible saunas. There’s also an infinity pool with a stunning view and a fantastic restaurant.
What makes this spa so unique is their Thermal Cycle process, which is a practice of alternating between hot and cold. You start with a hot sauna, which helps to release toxins from your body, followed immediately by going into cold water, which helps to close your pores. Then you let your body rest until it comes back to its normal temperature. You just keep repeating this cycle throughout the day and by the end you are so relaxed that your body feels like jello. You will feel like a new person after a day here. It’s definitely worth a visit when in Ottawa.
Canada’s capital and surrounding region is really quite stunning no matter what the season. Take advantage of the beauty in your own backyard. These 5 spots will definitely kick-start your amazing Ottawa experience.
By: Guest Writer Cristie Vito
No matter what time of year you decide to pack up the car and take a road trip, there’s always a place to explore in Ontario that’s worth the trip. One of those great spots is Elora. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure or a serene and charming small town feel, you’ll find both in Elora, definitely one of the most beautiful towns in Ontario.
Elora is a small town only about an hour and a half west of Toronto. And yet, it feels like you’re in another world far away from the big city. It’s loaded with a thriving arts and culture scene, rich history, boutiques and restaurants along the river’s edge.
The Elora Mill is Ontario’s only remaining five-story mill. It has gone through a massive renovation over the past few years with the plan being to transform it into an inn and restaurant. Adjacent is Elora’s Tooth of Time, the Islet Rock that divides the powerful waters of the Grand River as they go down the Gorge.
If you’re more of an adventure seeker, then Elora will keep you wanting more time to do more stuff.
For cyclists, hikers and walkers, hit a portion of the Trans-Canada Trail which connects with the 47km long Elora Cataract Trail. The trails take you through some incredible terrain and scenery, including a descent down the gorge and to the river’s shore.
The Elora Gorge itself and the activities you can enjoy is arguably the biggest draw to this region. The limestone cliffs are more than 70 feet high and stand tall along the Grand and Irvine Rivers. Here you’ll find everything from kayakers, tubers and swimmers. If you want to get up and see it all from above, there are several hot air balloon as well as zip line companies in the area. If you prefer to stay on the ground, then take your pick as to what activity you want to do.
And then there’s the Elora Quarry, also known as the “old swimming hole”. This is a 2 acre former limestone quarry surrounded by 40 foot cliffs. A stunning backdrop and a really cool place to swim.
Beautiful, close to Toronto and plenty to see and do. Elora is a great getaway any time of year.
Did we miss something that you feel we should have included? Let us know in the comment box below.
I received a lot of great road trip ideas from many people around Ontario Canada, and one of them was from a woman named Nancy, who suggested a road trip north, to Killbear Provincial Park. I was intrigued and quickly gathered some info and planned the trip. Thanks so much Nancy, excellent suggestion!
If you want to take a break from the city for a day and experience some incredible nature, then Killbear Provincial Park is worth a visit. If you’re a camper and want the chance to see black bears and White-tailed deer while you experience the great outdoors, then Killbear is worth an extended stay.
This small park is about 2 1/2 hours north of Toronto. For those who have driven north of Toronto and have reached as far as Muskoka, you know all too well how beautiful the scenery gets. Highway 400 becomes a very small portion of the Trans Canada Highway and the landscape becomes more rugged, rocky and hilly. The air, fresher and cleaner.
Killbear offers 4 hiking trails that are easy to moderate in difficulty, including a 6 km recreational trail that runs parallel to the main road. Besides hiking, you can bike, swim (in some picturesque beaches I might add), windsurf, sail, boat and canoe on one of the many spots within the park. After all, Killbear is located in the middle of the 30,000 islands. We hope that these pictures inspire you to experience a compact park that has everything that you will need to take a break from the big city.
We know you are after a day at the park. We were starving! On the way back, we stopped in Parry Sound and found a small Italian eatery called Maurizio’s Pizzeria. Easily one of the better places to eat in the area. And believe me, I’m skeptical when it comes to eating decent food outside of the city. I’ve had some pretty crappy food in small town Ontario and that includes something as simple as pizza.
But Maurizio and his Partner (who’s also his Mom, Sina), know what they’re doing here.
Maurizio is a Certified Pizza Maker and a volunteer fire fighter. He takes both very seriously. I have to be honest, I was really surprised that a small town Restaurateur would put in so much effort into making really great food, including pizza. He could easily get away with doing things sub-par but he chooses the higher road. He’s won several awards to prove it.
There’s no compromise on quality and flavour here. The flour and tomatoes are imported from Italy, the ingredients are fresh, the basil and rosemary are grown in-house and the pizza is ready to go in 4 minutes. It’s a local favourite and a recognized favourite from visitors as well, who usually hit it when they arrive at the start of the weekend and re-visit on their way out of town. Give it a try next time you’re passing through Parry Sound. It’s worth the detour.
There you have it y’all. Great day of hiking topped off with a great local food discovery. Can’t get much better than that.
Do you have a suggested location that we missed in this article? Know of another great place to hike and eat along Georgian Bay? Let us know about it. We’re always up for hearing from locals who know best.
Ahhh yes, a summer or early fall getaway…..a spot to let your eyes gaze out onto an endless sky, an endless lake. To get inspired, to breathe. And it’s all within driving distance of Toronto. I’m talking about beautiful and serene Bayfield, Ontario.
Bayfield sits on the edge of Lake Huron. It’s only about 2 1/2 hours west of Toronto and yet, often overlooked by the bigger, glitzy coastal towns along Huron. Sauble Beach for example is a couple of hours north and attracts so many people that it’s often hard to even find a space to lay your towel down on the sand (or even space in the water) without violating someone else’s personal space.
Grand Bend is about 30 minutes south and again, it’s so crowded you may not get that beach space you want.
Don’t get me wrong, Sauble and Grand Bend are amazing places with so much to do and see. But if you want serenity and space, a place where you can feel time slow right down for you, then hit Bayfield. Great for young and old, couples, families or even solo. It’s between the two giants and in my opinion, better!
Look out into the lake you’ll see something sticking 12 feet up above the surface. It’s part of a vessel, the Lynda Hindman, which was hauled from Goderich to Bayfield about 30 years ago to use as a break wall and prevent further erosion of the beach. Apparently, the brigadier decided to leave it out there. That and nasty storms over the past three decades have reportedly broken up the vessel. What remains sticking up is the stern. With the water level so low, it allows for it to be seen and climbed on. Swimmers often head out and stand on it.
Love cute, charming and intimate historic centres? Yup, you know where I’m going with this. Bayfield’s got that too. Founded in the early 1830s, Bayfield has a stroll-worthy downtown, complete with green space, inn’s, rustic restaurants and shops. But if you want to get beyond the surface, consider a walking tour. There’s plenty to choose from.
And finally, you can’t talk about Lake Huron and Bayfield without mentioning the sunsets. They’re epic and people set up camp early in the evening at Pioneer Park for the best seat in the house. It’s a beauty park during the day and offers an amazing view at dusk. Bring a picnic and take your time.
There you have it! Bayfield, Ontario. Peaceful, beautiful, historic with an awesome beach and a surreal sunset. Perfect for everyone. Come early and leave late. Definitely go while the weather is amazing. You’ll love it!
Been to Bayfield? Have something to share that we missed? Let us know below.
I had a friend recently tell me about how beautiful it is to take the train through Paris, Ontario. The rail bridge is elevated over the Grand River and you get a perfect view of the small town in the near distance. But, he admitted that’s he’s never stopped to see the town.
Paris is located about an hour and half west of Toronto. It’s known as the cobblestone capital of Canada because of the number of aged cobblestone houses. A key example of this is historic Hamilton Place, a house built in the 1840s in the Greek Revival Style and constructed entirely of cobblestone. Paris is considered to be one of, if not the prettiest small towns Canada. It has loads of charm, serenity, friendly people, restaurants, bakeries and of course a picturesque backdrop. And although Parisians here don’t separate their neighbourhoods by Arrondissements, you can make a case for Paris, Ontario having a left and right bank of the Grand River.
The town has hosted an annual Fall Fair over the Labour Day long weekend for more than 150 years. It attracts thousands and features grandstand entertainment, agricultural displays, exhibits, livestock shows, a midway and even a demolition derby.
Instead of going on and talking about Paris, I thought to better show you what Paris, Ontario is all about in photos.
The Arlington Hotel. Built in 1850, it’s an Ontario Heritage Site
Paris, Ontario makes for an ideal road trip. Local food, local charm and not too far from the big city. For more information about restaurants, accommodations and other activities along the banks of the Grand, please refer to the official Paris, Ontario directory. My advice is to park the car and walk around. Take your time, relax and discover Paris your way. Meander the streets and sample the flavours.